Georgian civilians living around the Administrative Boundary Line frequently experience arrest, abduction and detention by Russian or South Ossetian “border guards” for alleged violation and trespassing of the “border”. This page keeps track of the latest developments of such arrests.
18 January 2021
RFE/RL – Ekho Kavkaza reported Zaza Gakheladze, who was arrested on 11 July 2020 (see below) by South Ossetian authorities, was on trial in Tskhinvali on 18 January 2021. Gakheladze was shot by Russian controlled border guards after allegedly opening fire to them near the administrative boundary line.
28 December 2020
It was only on the 21st of January 2021 South Ossetian authorities released information a Georgian citizen of 27 years old was detained near Akhmaji (Akhalgori district) on 28 December 2020 for “illegally crossing the border”.
In another propaganda spin, the South Ossetian authorities used this case to project an image of society and economical desperation in Tbilisi administered territory: the Georgian detainee has been quoted by the Ossetian KGB as saying he “illegally crossed the South Ossetian-Georgian border in the hope of finding a job and staying for further residence in South Ossetia”. He allegedly said that he did not intend to return to Georgia and demonstratively spoiled his identity document.
The KGB also punned to Tbilisi “given the complex epidemiological and socio-political situation in Georgia, the Tbilisi regime should pay more attention to the problems of the population, which is forced to engage in illegal activities.”
24 December 2020
The detention in Tskhinvali of 33-year-old Zaza Gakheladze was extended by two months on 24 December 2020. He was detained by South Ossetian forces at the dividing line on 11 July 2020, on charges of illegally crossing the “border” and opening fire at “border guards”. The detainee was wounded during the arrest (see more below at 11 July).
Acting State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality Tea Akhvlediani criticized the step as “continuation of destructive policy”, yet also highlighted that Mirian Taziashvili of 63 years was released on 22 December. He was detained on 20 November (see below) near Zardiantkari. On 4 December he was sentenced to two months prison in Tskhinvali.
21 December 2020
Agenda.ge and others reported on 21 December about the deteriorating health situation of 89-year-old Data Vanishvili, whose house and agricultural lands have been divided in two by borderization at Khurvaleti. Data Vanishvili is in critical condition with pneumonia and is not being allowed [by South Ossetian authorities] to enter Tbilisi-controlled territory to receive medical assistance. His wife said “Sometimes a doctor comes from Tskhinvali, sometimes from Akhalgori hospital. We are unable to leave the territory. Data’s health condition has deteriorated much over the past several days”.
There are also complications with relatives to visit the old man and take care of him: their daughter Nana lives in an adjacent village and has been threatened by South Ossetian forces not to enter the house, while their grandson Malkhaz who had tried to give him help was detained earlier this month and remains in the Russian-occupied Akhalgori district. Malkhaz’ wife was also shortly detained but released on 17 December and transfered to Tbilisi controlled territory as she is 8 months pregnant.
Data Vanishvili is often talking to foreign delegations through the barbed wire that separates his premises from Tbilisi controlled territory.
20 November 2020
A Georgian citizen was arrested and detained near Zardiantkari, Georgia’s State Security Service said. No further details were provided, the EUMM hotline was activated. The South Ossetian authorities used this and another case of 11 November in a new propaganda wave at the end of the month, portraying a desperate situation in Tbilisi administered Georgia which allegedly makes people want to go to South Ossetia, or provide food assistance from the South Ossetian side:
“According to the detainees, due to the spread of coronavirus infection, their relatives have lost their jobs and have no means of livelihood, and the Georgian leadership, busy with political confrontation after the parliamentary elections, has withdrawn itself from providing assistance to the population surviving in a pandemic. The reason for the transition in the [20 November Zardiantkari] case was the extremely low standard of living in this Georgian border settlement and the lack of elementary means of subsistence.”
A few days later, the South Ossetian authorities claimed to have detained two more Georgians, citing similar reasons of the detainees to “flee” to South Ossetia: “the lack of conditions for existence, the impossibility of employment, and meager pensions. This fact once again confirms the unwillingness of the Georgian authorities to deal with the problems of their population”.
However, the situation in Akhalgori district where the Georgian population has been actively obstructed in their interaction with Tbilisi administered territory, has resulted in an increasing exodus of the local (Georgian) population. According to Democracy Research Institute 280 people have applied for relocation through the “Family Reunification Program”. Obviously denied as “fake news” by the South Ossetian authorities. But in fact, despite arguing the numbers, they confirmed dozens have already left the region through the program, having been “transported to Georgia for permanent residence”. Only a handful of people relocated to South Ossetia through this program. DRI summarizes the program and its conditions:
“The de facto South Ossetian government’s “Family Reunification” programme is a “legal” way of removing ethnic Georgians from Akhalgori. Anyone wishing to leave Akhalgori must first pay all utility bills and fines and submit the relevant documents to the local security service. In addition, it is necessary for them to obtain documents proving that their families are really waiting for them on the other side of the so-called border. The most important and dangerous part of the programme is the content of the “exit document”, according to which, the person leaving the district will not be allowed to return and will not reclaim the property he/she is leaving in Akhalgori.”
Reportedly on 24 November 2020 a Georgian citizen from Tbilisi “was detained by the border authorities of the republic for violating the regime of the State Border of the Republic of South Ossetia, on the southeastern outskirts of Tskhinvali. On the same morning, Beridze drove to the outskirts of the border settlement of Ditsi Gori municipality of Georgia, headed towards the South Ossetian-Georgian State Border and crossed it in the fuel and energy complex market area of Tskhinvali. Having approached the stationary traffic police post of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of South Ossetia, the offender informed the law enforcement officers about crossing the border, motivating his actions with a desire to obtain political asylum and citizenship of the Republic of South Ossetia.” he was released and handed over to Georgian authorities on 1 December.
29 October 2020
According to the NGO Democracy Research Institute, a teacher from an Akhalgori secondary school has been detained, on charges of collaborating with the Georgian security forces and providing information about the Russian military unit to the Georgian side. The teacher is not known for any (political) activism.
25 September 2020
Georgian citizen Khvicha Mgebrishvili, who had been illegally detained by Russian-controlled forces for 85 days was released. This was agreed upon at the 97th IPRM meeting in Ergneti the day before. During this meeting a Russian helicopter violated Georgian airspace. It was allegedly spotted near Ergneti. Shortly after his release Mgebrishvili stated:
“I was going to Artsevi, when they arrested me and took me to Tskhinvali. I was treated well, I had no problem. Statements about bats, Americans and the lab are nonsense. I do not even speak English”
A 28 year old resident of South Ossetia was allegedly tortured to death on 28 August in a Tskhinvali police station after he was arrested on charges of attempting to kill the region’s de facto Interior Minister Igor Naniev. The death caused massive public outcry in Tskhinvali, after which the de facto prosecutor general offered to resign, on condition MPs’ who led the protests would also resign. In the aftermath, de facto President Bibilov dismissed the government. Yet protesters demanded Bibilov to resign, which he refused saying “I have not been elected by 500 people”.
On 21 August de facto authorities in South Ossetia reported Khvicha Mghebrishvili, who was arrested on 3 July for “violating the state border”, was sentenced to 3 months detention (more background at 12 July below). This triggered concerns from both the Georgian government and his relatives. On 3 September Mghebrishvili’s family asked the Georgian government to take more effective steps to secure his release, while the International Red Cross has not been allowed access to Mghebrishvili to confirm his condition:
“I hope that our government will do it’s best to release our family member from Russia-occupied Tskhinvali prison. Nobody tells us whether Khvicha is alive or not. We ask the Georgian government to support us as it helped the family members of Georgian doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili, who was also abducted by occupation forces in November of 2019”
In an article at Radio Tavisupleba the verdict was described as a “legal absurdity”. It says, Khvicha Mghebrishvili “was tried by the Tskhinvali de facto court under the first part of Article 322 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation“. Article 322 says:
“Illegal entry of foreign nationals into the Russian Federation, their illegal stay in the territory of the Federation or illegal transit through the territory of the Russian Federation is punishable by imprisonment for up to 5 years or restriction of liberty for up to two years”.
So, a judge of the Tskhinvali “court” sentenced Mghebrishvili for “violating the state border of the Russian Federation”, which is an absurdity. Even when one would consider South Ossetia’s self declared (independent) status from the point of view of the Tskhinvali de facto court. Mghebrishvili was detained near the boundary line between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali controlled territory, near the Adzvistavi village, nowehere near the Russian Federation.
On 30 July 2020 the 96th EUMM facilitated Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meeting took place. It was the first IPRM meeting in 11 months, after the South Ossetian side cancelled further meetings when Tbilisi refused to remove a police post near Tsnelisi village in August 2019. The most important topic for Tbilisi was the unconditional release of three citizens which were recently put in detention in Tskhinvali. Radio Tavispuleba spoke with various people about the result of the meeting.
According to Radio Tavisupleba, Georgian citizen Malkhaz Lezhava was detained by Russian controlled forces on 25 July 2020 near the Church of the Mother of God between Mejvriskhevi and Russian controlled Ghromi. The State Security Service of Georgia stated he has been set free and put in quarantine in the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia.
12 July (Mgebrishvili case)
On 12 July it got public knowledge (in Georgia) a Georgian citizen from Mejvriskhevi was arrested on 3 July by “occupying forces” near the ABL at Adzvi and put in COVID-19 quarantaine for two weeks. The de facto South Ossetian authorities reported on this on 10 July. On 19 July it was confirmed Khvicha Mghebrishvili remains in detention after clearing his 14 days quarantaine.
On 16 July the State Security Committee of South Ossetia reported Mgebrishvili not only “violated the State border” but that “he intended to get the so-called bat cocoons for sale in Georgia”. According to the report came forward with this explanation himself, as reason to “violate the border”. The South Ossetian de facto authorities already had a convenient story ready to join this explanation, connecting it with the activities of the Lugar biolab in Tbilisi (once again):
“Regarding the testimony of Kh.A. Mgebrishvili, it is necessary to clarify that the bats living in the Republic of South Ossetia – Pointed-eared bat, like the rest of the bats, are viviparous and do not build any nests, cocoons and other shelters. At the same time, there is an increased interest in the population of South Ossetian bats mice, since 2012, has been showing the so-called. R. Lugar “Center for Public Health “
“In 2018, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), together with the Lugar Center, as a field laboratory, is implementing a US $ 2.9 million project on bats and coronaviruses. The program is designed for 5 years and is implemented with the help of NGOs” Eco Health Alliance “.
In this regard, the KGB of the Republic of South Ossetia emphasizes that the bat, Myotis blythi, inhabiting the territory of South Ossetia, is listed in the Red Book of the Republic of South Ossetia. Thus, any cross-border activity related to its extraction and illegal movement outside the Republic is qualified in accordance with Articles 258.1 and 226.1 of the Criminal Code and entails a corresponding criminal penalty in the form of imprisonment.
In other words, also in Mgebrishvili’s case just as with others recently a second crime is attached to the “border violation”, typically a more serious crime, up for long prison sentence.
The Head of the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia under which the Lugar Lab resides, explained such a program investigating the relationship between bats and corona viruses does exists. But that the Center’s uses zoo-entomologists, not ordinary citizens as Tskhinvali suggests, in sample collection works. Gamkrelidze slammed the information released the region’s KGB as “lies” and “staged provocation.”
11 July (Gakheladze case)
IPN and others reported a Georgian citizen from Kvemo Chala was shot, arrested and taken by “occupying forces” from allegedly Tbilisi controlled territory near Skhivo Fortress, ~500 metres beyond the Administrative Boundary Line. According to local reports, he was injured which the State Security Service of Georgia confirmed.
According to South Ossetian de facto authorities the 33 year old Gakheladze crossed the ABL near Akhmaji and shot at the “border guards”. Return fire was the cause of his injuries, according to the State Security Committee of South Ossetia. Relatives said Gakheladze and his friend (who could escape) were picking mushrooms in the fields near the Skhvilo Fortress. They have frequently sighted Russian controlled “border guards” roaming around the Fortress which is Tbilisi controlled area.
“Such a dangerous and unjustified incident would not have happened if Russia had fulfilled its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including the withdrawal of the armed forces from pre-conflict positions and access to unhindered access to humanitarian aid. “
Meanwhile the Red Cross is trying to get to Gakheladze and information about his well being, as they are the only international organization with direct access to South Ossetia. By 14 July they still had no access to Gakheladze.
On 17 July the South Ossetian de facto authorities stated Gakheladze is charged with two crimes: “illegal crossing of the State Border and encroachment on the life of a law enforcement officer of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation” Furthermore, the press service of the regional KGB gave a rambling lecture written like an op-ed over the reasons why Georgia “whips up excitement”. it also takes aim again at the EUMM mission: “the mission decided to “actively” observe, while making biased but beneficial statements for Georgia”
A day later on 18 July the military prosecutor of South Ossetia stated Gakheladze shot at least five times at the border guards before being shot himself, while “moving deep into the territory of South Ossetia”. The latter is contrary to multiple statements of relatives and Gakheladze’s friend who was able to escape.
Gahkeladze was transferred from hospital to an isolator in Tskhinvali, Georgian media reported on 26 July 2020. On 27 July the Red Cross is expected to visit Gakheladze, something it has been trying to do from the beginning. The ICRC is the only international organization allowed and active in South Ossetia.
A Georgian citizen who was detained for several months by Russian-controlled occupation forces for ‘illegally crossing the border’ was released on 7 July. She will return to her family after spending two weeks in the quarantine zone.
IPN and others reported on 21 June 2020: “Occupying forces detained a 60 year old shepherd on the outskirts of the village of Akhalubani on the perimeter of the dividing line on the territory of Gori Municipality”. The shepherd was taken to Tskhinvali before being released the same day and transferred to Georgian authorities.
“Jumber Psitidze, a resident of Akhalubani, was grazing cattle with two villagers, during which armed uniforms appeared and he was arrested. The two shepherds who were with him managed to escape. According to the relatives of the detainee, the shepherds did not move to the occupied territories and the cattle were in the territory controlled by the central government of Georgia”.
The South Ossetian “State Security Committee” reported 30 “border violations” for April 2020, down from 41 in March. Most people were simply fined. An “increase of uncontrolled cattle grazing near the state border” was observed.
Relatives of Data Vanishvili, a nationally well known local of Khurvaleti, have been detained by Russian controlled forces. They were on Georgian controlled territory for several days. Data Vanishvili told VOA Georgia that first his grandson, who was on his way to Akhalgori, was arrested. The next day soldiers of the Russian military went to his house and pulled out his grandson’s wife. Reportedly, the two were first taken to Akhalgori for detention. Subsequently they were transported to Tskhinvali for medical isolation in line with local policies regarding the coronavirus pandemic. After the quarantaine a trial will decide about the penalty for “illegally crossing the border”. They were released on 3 May 2020 after fulfilling a 2-week quarantaine.
Voice of America Georgia interviewed Data Vanishvili:
The de facto authorities in Tskhinvali claimed Georgian media distorted the story: “Due to the fact that Georgian citizens who were contacted by Vanishvili’s spouse could be carriers of the virus and in order to prevent the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic entering South Ossetia, a decision was made to isolate them for up to 14 days in the Tskhinval medical institution”.
They also highlighted another recent case, painting Georgians negatively: “In addition, the KGB is seriously concerned about the situation surrounding the observance of the right to life of ethnic Ossetians living in Georgia. So, on April 16, having violated the state border regime, a citizen of the Republic of South Ossetia and South Ossetia, an ethnic Ossetian with two minor children, arrived in South Ossetia from Georgia. Having not received protection in the law enforcement bodies of Georgia, fleeing regular domestic violence against her and children by her husband, a Georgian by nationality, she was forced to cross the state border and turn to the leadership of South Ossetia.”
Separately, according to the annual report of the Georgian State Security Service released on 16 April, 86 citizens were “illegally detained” in 2019 by South Ossetian de facto authorities (and 27 by Abkhazia).
In its monthly report on “state border violations” the KGB of South Ossetia warned that everyone in the “border zone” (a one km wide zone along the ABL) needs to “obtain permits for economic, fishing and other activities”. (such as access to arable land, hunting, etc.)
It notes “increasing facts of uncontrolled cattle grazing near the state border of the Republic of South Ossetia, which entail a violation of the state border regime and the border zone of South Ossetia”. In other words, farmers on either side of the ABL have to control their cattle better or obtain permits to be in the “border zone”.
In February 2020, 38 violators of “border regime” were detained at various sections of the “state border of South Ossetia”, the KGB of South Ossetia reported. This is up from 36 in January 2020.
Subsequently, 26 people were fined, 5 were subjected to an administrative fine with expulsion from South Ossetia, 2 were expelled from the region without penalties (under Art. 14 of the Law “On the State Border of South Ossetia”), 3 were warned, and two violators were not punished.
A woman has been arrested and taken by militia from South Ossetia near the Administrative Boundary Line at the village of Bershueti. She has been transported to Tskhinvali for detention. The EUMM hotline has been activated. (see also 1TV, 05-03-2020)
A local Georgian resident (Eldar Gundishvili, 70) has been detained by Russian border troops near his village of Adzvi. The EU Monitoring Mission has been informed of the incident and the emergency hotline has been activated. Georgia’s Foreign Minister Zalkaliani will raise the issue at the next Ergneti IPRM and Geneva GID meetings. The citizen was released the next day. It was his third arrest.
Sixteen year old Alika Shiukashvilki (turning 17 in March) was arrested at the Administrative Boundary Line near the village of Kirbali, and first taken to the Gromi (Russian) FSB base before being detained overnight in Tskhinvali. As is the standard procedure, the EUMM hotline was activated. The next day he was released.
Allegedly he “was collecting firewood in the forest together with his fellow-villagers when gunmen appeared.” His companions managed to escape, while he was taken by so-called “border guards”.
Activist Davit Katsarava provided information at the village about an SOS button he has been proposing. This is a device that can identify and geolocate where a civilian is. On Facebook and Radio Tavisupleba he said that if the residents of the occupation line have such technical equipment, it will be easy to find them in case of abduction. He is looking for additional funding for this project, with each button costing 110 USD.
– Caucasian Knot
Russian-controlled forces allegedly detained 96-year-old Gora Garibashvili while he was trying to reach a cemetery near the village of Tsunevi, close to the boundary line, the Georgian Public Broadcaster reported. A day later he was back on Tbilisi controlled territory, Georgia’s State Security Service stated. The South Ossetian side however, claimed Garibashvili was not detained, but delivered to his relatives in Akhalgori by border guards after he was found disoriented in the boundary zone.
On December 7, 2019, four Georgian citizens were detained near Akhmaji by “border guards” for violation of South Ossetian border. The men were 15, 39, 43 and 57 years of age. The minor was expelled, against the three others court proceedings were prepared.
Near Khelchua a Georgian citizen was detained for violating “border regime”, South Ossetia the KGB press service reported on 29-11-2019. During inspection, about nine grams of marijuana was found on the suspect. Criminal proceedings were instituted and the Tskhinvali District Court decided to detain the suspect during preliminary investigation
Two men were detained in the outskirts of the village of Kodistskaro by Russian controlled security forces. The detainees were then transferred to Tskhinvali controlled territory. Locals said they were shepherding their cattle on Tbilisi administered territory.
Well known Georgian doctor and traumatotogist Vazha Gaprindashvili and three others were detained by Russian-controlled forces, Georgian State Security Service confirmed. According to South Ossetian authorities the men were detained on 9 November (confirmed by Radio Tavisupleba).
Gaprindashvili was eventually sent to two years of prison before being released in December 2019 after strong international pressure.
A 28-year-old Georgian man was detained by South Ossetian de facto security forces in the outskirts of Kveshi near the ABL. Zakro Butkhuzi’s family says he was working in the vineyard with his brother, which adjoins the village of Zemo Artsevi, located on the occupied territory. He was released two days later.
On October 22, 2019, Radio Tavisupleba and others reported Lasha Khetereli, from refugee settlement Shaumiani (Marneuli district) was released from a two month prison sentence in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia. He was arrested on August 25 for “illegal border crossing” when visiting his grandmother.
A week earlier his name appeared in a report about prisoner abuse in Tskhinvali prison.
24-year-old Giorgi Zangurashvili, was detained for “illegally crossing” the so-called “border” by Russian occupation forces near the village of Artsevi, where a Russian military base is located. He has been released the next day, the State Security Service of Georgia confirmed. The de-facto security committee reported the detainee had health problems and therefore he would be transferred to the Georgian side without any penalty.
A Georgian citizen was detained on 20 August 2019 in the southeastern outskirts of Tskhinvali for violating the state border of the republic, the KGB of South Ossetia said. Agenda.ge reported as well.
According to South Ossetian authorities, “the offender was brought to administrative responsibility in the form of a fine, followed by expulsion according to part 2 of article 4 of the law “On administrative responsibility in the field of protecting the state border”.
17 – 18 August
In the weekend of 17-18 August eight Georgians were arrested along the Administrative Boundary Line by Russian led “border guards”, on two locations: seven at a church near Adzvistavi and one person near Akhalubani. They were transported to the Tskhinvali isolator. The South Ossetian side changed their story during the day. They claimed all eight were arrested at the same location, the St George church near Adzvistavi (see map), drunk and in possession of drugs “of plant origin”.
The situation in the map: in green both FSB bases in area, and in violet the arrest locoations
The Foreign Ministry of Georgia stated that the borderization at Gugutiantkari last week and the abduction of Georgians this weekend near the ABL is a clear attempt at destabilizing the country. The Deputy Foreign Minister added that he will continue to increase international pressure on Russia (but refrained from elaborating on the “how” except for mobilizing). The number of people arrested in one day is unusual.
The seven (young) Georgian citizens were visiting a church in the wooded hills just outside of Adzvi village to lit candles according to one of the mothers. The church is situated between the Adzvistavi FSB base and Ghromi FSB base which covers this side of the river bank. The detained were allegedly taken to the Adzvistavi base. Despite the boundary line used in Google Maps and OpenStreetMap, suggesting the locations are within the “South Ossetian” area, the territory is considered to be Georgian controlled. Yandex Map uses a different demarcation (see below).
Locals told Rustavi2 the situation on the ground lacks clear indication of the boundary line, causing the occupying forces randomly arresting people claiming they trespassed. This causes a lot of anxiety, as by far most alleged trespassing is unintended, often related to farming. The youngsters were arrested around 18:00-19:00, and the hotline with the EUMM was quickly activated. A drone video of the area and the chapel with the cars visibly parked and abandoned, was shot by David Katsarava:
Rustavi2 reported on Sunday all three cars St George church have been transferred to the Georgian authorities, and will be forensically investigated. They were released by the South-Ossetian de facto authorities to units of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs.
In the morning of 18 August information was released another Georgian citizen was arrested nearby Akhalubani. He is a local from Mejvriskhevi, having been arrested previously for “border trespassing” as his uncle told Radio Tavisupleba. Just like the other seven he has been transferred to the Tskhinvali isolator. Radio Tavisupleba (RFE/RL) reported live from the site:
Update – 20 August
Two residents of Kvemo Chala were detained on 11 May 2019 near the boundary line of South Ossetia “illegally crossing the border”. Dimitri Isergishvili and Vasil Patarkatsishvili, were picking asparagus at the edge of the village of Karapila.
Russian border guards have arrested and abducted 80-year-old Amiran Meladze on 5 May 2019 from his village Kveshi, Gori district. His house is located near the boundary line, and reportedly he was harvesting asparagus in his garden. He was taken in the direction of Artsevi.
Two residents of Nikozi, Gabriel Melanashvili and Tamaz Mchedlidze, were detained on 23 April for “violating the border of South Ossetia”. Allegedly they were held in Tskhinvali prison, while locals claimed the de facto authorities of South Ossetia demanded $295 for their release.
Upon their release the next day, South Ossetian authorities they let them go without a fine. They cited health problems of one of the two men, something his mother said a day earlier. Locals said they went to clean graves at the cemetery near the village, ahead of Easter holiday.
Occupation forces detained Georgian citizen Gocha Pidiuri near his village Mejvriskhevi close to the ABL with South Ossetia for “illegally crossing the border”, Georgian media reported. His neighbours said Pidiuri was often visiting the Lomisi shrine located near the boundary line. Two days later he was released and transferred to Georgian authorities at Ergneti.
Two Georgian citizens, Alan Marghishvili and Giorgi Chitishvili, from Karapila and Zadiantkari were detained near the ABL for “illegally crossing the border” on 13 March 2019. They were released the next day.
The Georgian State Security Service reported 327 Georgian citizens have been detained “by occupying forces for illegally crossing the border” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia between 2017 and 2019. Near the South Ossetian ABL 242 persons were detained for “illegally crossing the border”, the remaining 85 in Abkhazia (in 2019 so far 16 and 4 respectively)
Occupying forces detained a cleric, Father David Durglishvili, near the village of Nikozi in the evening of 4 February 2019, claiming he “illegally crossed the border”. Witnesses say the cleric was on his own agricultural farm land on territory under the control of the central Georgian government. The next day he was released.
De facto parliament of Georgia’s South Ossetia region increased the penalty for ‘illegally crossing the border’ with Georgia to $300 as they deemed the current amount of $30 to be ineffective. More than GEL 116.000 ($42.000) has been collected between 2008 and 2017 and added to the separatist budget.
The representative of the border service of the KGB of South Ossetia informed de facto lawmakers that since 1 January 2018 to date 460 people violated the “state border of the republic”, an increase of 10% compared to 2017. [Note: this may include people coming from Russia via Roki as the Georgian numbers don’t match]. He also noted in October 58 violators (53 in September) were detained, of which 44 were fined.
The same day two men (18 and 32) were arrested by “border guards” of South Ossetia near Lomisi’s St George Church monastery which is located on the ABL. One of the detainees is a temporary resident of the monastery, the other a priest. They were set free the next day “on humane considerations” without penalties.
Usually the clergymen go down to the Ksani Gorge in Tskhinvali controlled territory to get water which is lacking at the monastery. This time a new resident of the monastery went down, who the Russian controlled militia did not know and recognize as from Lomisi, father David explained.
Russian controlled forces kidnapped a 50 year old Georgian citizen from the village of Kirbali (Gori municipality) on 6 October 2018. He was detained for so called “illegally crossing the border” near the ABL of South Ossetia. He was released on 9 October together with another detainee and transferred at Ergneti (see below).
Khurvaleti resident Maia Otinashvili (37) was detained by Russian controlled “border guards” in her village allegedly from her own garden. Villagers said she was near the administrative boundary line when armed individuals detained her and transported her in the direction of Tskhinvali.
On 2 October Maia Otinashvili was sent to 10 days pre-trial detention (instead of 2 months as reported originally) on accusations that also assists people to “illegally cross the border between Georgia and South Ossetia”, receiving payment. Georgian Public Defender Nino Lomjaria shared on 3 October
“We understood from the family of Otinashvili that she was beaten on the Russian military base in Kardzmani village. Even though Otinashvili has a lawyer he was not allowed to see the detainee. None of the independent observers were permitted to see her, which gives credibility to the family’s suspicion that she has been beaten,”
Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were allowed to see Maia Otinashvili in prison later that day, but guidelines prohibit the organization to disclose details to the media. “We will provide the information in a closed format with the responsible state bodies” the ICRC stated. South Ossetian press agency organized local journalists talking to her: she denied the alleged abuse. On 9 October, after 10 days of detention, she was released and transferred to Georgian authorities at Ergneti. According to South Ossetian “state media” Otinashvili was convicted for “violating the state border” receiving a probational sentence of one year.
Two polish citizens were detained on 1 September 2018 by South Ossetian “border guards” in the Java district near the abandoned village of Khoz (Хоз) for allegedly “violating the state border between Georgia and South Ossetia”. They were trekking to Keli Lake in Truso Gorge. After paying a fine they were released on 3 September and expelled from the South Ossetia region.
Five Georgian hikers were detained on 28 August 2018 for ‘violating the state border’ with Georgia’s occupied region of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia), officials from Tskhinvali confirmed. The young hikers from Tbilisi started their journey on 24 August to reach Keli Lake in the pictorial Truso Gorge in the northeastern Georgia in Kazbegi Municipality. They were released and transferred on 30 August.
On the same day a 67 year old shepherd was detained near Balta for ‘violating the state border’ with Georgia’s occupied region of Tskhinvali (South Ossetia).
Russian controlled border guards kidnapped a Georgian citizen near Sakorintlo, Kaspi municipality on territory administered by the central Georgian government on 31 July 2018. The State Security Service of Georgia confirmed the man was kidnapped for so called “illegal crossing of border” of South Ossetia.
According to the KGB of South Ossetia a 40-year-old woman from Rustavi was detained by “border guards” near the village of Balta on 10 July 2018, for “violating the state border regime”. The press service of the State Security Committee added that after facing a court and paying a fine, she violator was expelled back to Tbilisi controlled Georgia.
Russia-controlled border guards abducted a 28-year-old Georgian citizen in the village of Akhrisi, Gori municipality, near the occupation line with South Ossetia region, on 6 July 2018. Three days later he was released after paying a 2000 RUB (31 USD) fine.
And later that day a 2nd Georgian was arrested for “illegally crossing the border”, near Akhalubani village. 24 year old Giorgi Kujoshvili was taken to the Ardevisi FSB base, only to be released on 10 July, after the fine was paid. According to Imedi News he lives alone, while his relatives live in Vladikavkaz (North Ossetia-Alania, Russia).
A 16 year old high school student from Chvirnisi which is located near the boundary line of South Ossetia was arrested by the so called border guards of South Ossetia on 30 June 2018. He was released two days later after his family paid a fine amounting to 2,000 Russian rubles (31 USD).
Russian controlled border guards of South Ossetia detained on 29 June 2018 a 94-year-old Georgian citizen in the village of Sakorintlo, Kaspi municipality, on Tbilisi-administered territory. Locals said they saw how armed “border guards” attacked the old man and kidnapped him. It is the second time he was abducted by occupants.
Caucasian Knot reported two residents of 19 and 27 year old from the “border” village of Bershueti were detained on 21 June 2018 by Russian border guards. According to their relatives, the young men were detained when going to a village chapel, “Georgia Online” reported. They were taken to Tskhinvali.
Villagers said three other local residents were near the chapel together with the two arrested, but they returned to the village before the “border guards” arrived at the place.
Caucasian Knot reported based on a South Ossetian KGB press release a 22-year-old Georgian was detained on 20 June 2018 near Ksuisi in Tskhinvali controlled territory. He is a resident from Mereti village (Gori District).
The Tskhinvali de facto District Court opened a case against him under Article 322 of the Russian Criminal Code (“illegal border crossing”) and put him in pre-trial custody for two months “due to repeated violation of the border”.
“It has been established that this person had already been detained in May for a similar offense and was subjected to administrative liability with subsequent expulsion out of South Ossetia,” the KGB said in its statement.
68 year old shepherd Misha Petriashvili, herding cattle with two fellow villagers, was kidnapped on 17 June 2018 from Akhalubani, Gori district near the ABL of South Ossetia. Locals said the three people were on Georgian controlled territory at the moment of the incident and did not cross the so-called “border”. On 18 June South Ossetian authorities stated they prepared a trial at Tskhinvali District Court.
Near the village of Disevi under de facto control of South Ossetia, a 38 year old resident of Kobuleti was arrested and detained. Due to his health he was released the next day without penalties, and transferred to Georgian authorities.
Caucasian Knot reported that according to Georgian “Channel One” Russian controlled militias arrested a woman with two young children near Atotsi on the “border” with South Ossetia. They tried to visit her relatives in South Ossetia, “Georgia-Online” added. Unlike usual, they were not taken to the detention centre in Tskhinvali but were released on site.
The Georgian village of Atotsi is located on the Georgian-South-Ossetian dividing line. Close to it is the village of Balta, Znaur District, which after the 2008 war got unde South ossetian control. Many residents of the two villages are relatives.
Near the South Ossetian controlled village of Artsevi a 41 year old resident of Kveshi, on Tbilisi controlled territory close to the ABL, was arrested and detained on 15 June 2018. On 18 June information was released by South Ossetian de facto authorities a trial was prepared for so called “violation of the state border”.
South Ossetian de facto authorities reported 35 people were detained in May for “violating the border regime”, compared to 45 in April.
On 5 June the South Ossetian de facto authorities announced they would “strengthen control over the state border regime” in June and July by “planning joint activities aimed at preventing violations in the border sphere”.
A priest was detained near Dvani village by Russian controlled “border guards” of South Ossetia in the early morning of 5 June 2018. Ioane Okhanashvili is pastor of Saint George’s Church in Dirbi, located a few kilometres away from the South Ossetian ABL. The priest was released the same day, without a penalty .
Shepherd Teimuraz Dudashvili, 58 years and of Ossetian etnicity, was detained by Russian controlled “border guards” near Tsitelubani on 5 June 2018 while herding his cattle. He was taken by force to Tskhinvali by according to his neighbours, and released a day later.
A 23-years old resident of Plavi was detained on 24 May 2018 by so-called border guards near the administrative boundary line. He was herding cattle near his land while he was detained for “illegally crossing” the so called border.
Russia-controlled “border guards” detained on 17 May 2018 near Zemo Dvani a 29 year old Georgian citizen from Tirdznisi village. Locals said that the detained allegedly could not find the way and accidently appeared on the territory which is under Russia’s control. They said the young man who suffers from a serious heart disease, has been detained for “illegal crossing of border”. Due to his health problems he was released the next day without penalties.
Russian-controlled border guards detained Sergo Darbaidze (50) near the administrative boundary line of Georgia’s South Ossetia region. His family stated he was abducted in the evening of 25 April 2018 when he was herding cattle in his own garden, in Kveshi. Darbaidze was detained for “illegally crossing the border” and was taken to a Tskhinvali detention facility.
His son told media “the territory is controlled by Georgia. After the abduction Sergo phoned me and told me that he was in Tskhinvali detention facility.”
A Georgian citizen of Kere (Gori municipality), Akaki Misireli (66), was detained near the administrative boundary line of breakaway South Ossetia by “border guards” on 21 April 2018. He was taken to Tskhinvali’s police department for detention. This news led to protests by representatives of the Strength in Unity movement, which, in particular, began to patrol the territory near the village of Kere. After paying a fine in South Ossetia, he was handed over to Georgian law enforcement officers at the roadblock in Ergneti, on 23 April.
A 31 year old resident, Soso Dvalishvili, from Gori municipality was detained by South Ossetian “border guards” near Ghromi on 20 April 2018. He was released on April 23 after paying a fine for “violating the border”, together with Akaki Misireli (above).
On 20 April 2018, Elizbar Mestumrishvili (77) was detained by Russian-controlled border guards in Jariasheni (Gori municipality), near the administrative boundary line with South Ossetia. Locals said he was herding cattle on territory controlled by Georgia. After being taken to Tskhinvali for detention he was released the next day.
A Georgian citizen (52) was detained by Russia-controlled border guards near Plavismani (Gori municipality) on 17 April 2018. According to Georgia’s State Security Service, Tamaz Iluridze was accused of illegally crossing the so-called border. He was released and expelled to Tbilisi controlled territory the next day after paying a fine. Locals said that Iluridze was herding cattle with his neighbor Gela Giunashvili when armed “border guards” detained him. Giunashvili managed to escape and inform the police. According to the residents of the village, the incident took place while the two were on Georgia-controlled territory.
Traffic police officers in South Ossetia, serving in a stationary post in the village of Avnevi (Znaur district), arrested a 35-year-old Georgian citizen on 9 April 2018. He crossed the administrative boundary line at Tsnelisi (Znaur district) and was walking to Tskhinvali. He was accused of “illegally crossing the border” and subsequently transferred to the FSB border service in Tskhinvali.
Two locals of Adzvi village, Eldar Gundishvili and Temur Kazievi, who were illegally detained by Russian occupants on 7 April 2018, were released a day later. Eldar Gundishvili said he was detained while he was grazing his cattle in his own yard.
Two Georgian citizens of 27 and 41 year old from Akhalsopeli and Adzvi (Gori municipality) were detained on 22 March 2018 by Russian controlled border guards “for violating the state border of South Ossetia”. This happened near Adzvistavi.
A Georgian and Russian citizen were detained near Tskhinvali controlled Prisi, for alleged “violation of the state border”, RES reported on 14 February 2018. According to the local KGB the Russian citizen, with the help from the Georgian, “tried to hide from criminal responsibility in Georgia, using the territory of the Republic of South Ossetia as a transit area”. They were transferred to Russian authorities at Roki border checkpoint.
A 50 year old citizen of Georgia was taken by Russian controlled forces “for violating the state border regime” near Khelchua, RES reported on 12 February. The de facto KGB inquiry agencies opened a criminal case under Article 322 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (illegal border crossing), as he has been detained multiple times for similar “offenses” in 2017. The Tskhinvali District Court detained him for the duration of the preliminary investigation (for a period of 2 months)
In January the de facto authorities arrested 19 Georgians for “violation of the state border with Georgia”, the KGB of South Ossetia stated. Most of them were fined.
In April 2018 Georgia’s State Security Service (SSS) released its annual report. It recollects 126 Georgian citizens were illegally detained by Russia-controlled border guards in 2017, at the administrative boundary line with South Ossetia. And 52 others at the Abkhazian administrative boundary line. The individuals were detained for the “illegal crossing of the border” and many of them were released shortly after paying a fine. According to the South Ossetia de facto authorities a total of 514 “violators of the state border with Georgia were detained“, reportedly 11% less than in 2016.